The lynching of a rape accused on March 5 by an irate mob in Dimapur is a horrific tale of inhuman actions and reactions. The alleged accused, Syed Sarifuddin Khan, maintained that it was a case of consensual sex but was awaiting trial in a high-security prison complex after being accused of rape when the mob decided to dispense justice instantaneously and unaccountably. The execution was nothing short of macabre.
Benjamin Franklin once remarked, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Yes, most of us are outraged when an unjust act is committed against innocents. The victims in such cases need not only our empathy but also swift legal justice. The guilty must also get due punishment as envisaged by the law. For, it is the rule of law that assures us our fundamental rights, our duties and, most importantly, the right to a free-and-a fair trial if charged with an offence.
Such mob reaction is not new to our society; but what was unusual this time was the irreverence and contempt the attackers had for the established process of law. As individuals, a society and a nation we need to rise in unison to demand that justice and its processes cannot be held hostage by anyone, irrespective of their numbers or their beliefs. Nor can the rule of law be subverted to satiate the demands of some people. Furthermore, the Centre should enact legislation or amend the criminal laws so that actions of a mob can be dealt with swiftly and with exemplary punitive action. Additionally, public servants including policemen and government officials should be held accountable and if found guilty, they must be penalised. Overlooking incidents such as the Dimapur one would shake the faith of the common man in our constitutional guarantees, which ensures not only dignity and equality but also protection of life and personal liberty.
Mustafa Arif is a lawyer